Restaurant Trend: Composting Not Only Cool, Legally Required

The green movement has people and restaurants alike looking for ways to reduce waste and improve the sustainability of food production. Bits of food that would have sat useless and decomposing, producing methane in a trash heap, are turned into rich fertilizer for gardens. Composting is an easy way to reduce a restaurant’s carbon footprint. But what was first a restaurant trend, is now becoming the law.

bins for garbage, recycle, and composting: a restaurant adheres to the new sustainable restaurant trend

  • In 2009, San Francisco, California passed the Mandatory Recycling & Composting Ordinance, which requires all residents and businesses in the city to compost their biodegradable trash and sort their recyclables.
  • Seattle, Washington passed an extension of its recycling bill to mandate composting in 2009.
  • Businesses in Portland, Oregon found not complying with recycling and composting laws are fined $200 for the first infraction, which increases by $200 for every month the issue is not resolved. Food services specifically are required to use compostable take-away containers.
  • In June of 2013, Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York City, New York announced his proposal to begin a voluntary composting program that many believe will become mandatory within a few years of its first implementation.
  • In 2014, Massachusetts (as a state) is expected to pass a composting mandate for all food service institutions including large restaurants, colleges, hospitals, and food manufacturers.
  • Effective 2016, all large restaurants bigger than 5,000 square feet are required to compost in Austin, Texas. Smaller restaurants must follow suit in 2017

The trend of sustainability and environmentally-friendly alternatives seems here to stay, and not just in the US. The EU has a union-wide recycling law that includes composting. Countries are expected to recycle 50% of waste by 2020. Japan’s restaurants must adhere to their “Food Recycling Law”. Meanwhile the Municipality of Jeddah in Saudi Arabia is implementing a new food waste recycling program that, while not mandatory, might be the first steps toward a similar fate.

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